1st Edition

The American Urban Reader
History and Theory

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ISBN 9780415803984
Published July 23, 2010 by Routledge
572 Pages

USD $73.95

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Book Description

The American Urban Reader brings together the most exciting work on the evolution of the American city, from colonial settlement and western expansion to post-industrial cities and the growth of the suburbs. Each of the chronologically and thematically organized chapters includes thoughtfully selected scholarly essays from historians, social scientists and journalists, which are supplemented by relevant primary documents that offer more nuanced perspectives and convey the diversity and interdisciplinary nature of the study of the urban condition. A comprehensive companion website offers valuable further reading, compelling supplementary links, slideshows of additional images, and a dialogue opening blog written by one of the authors.

Lisa Krissoff Boehm and Steven H. Corey together bring thirty-five years of classroom experience in urban studies and history, and have selected a range of work that is dynamically written and carefully edited to be accessible to students and appropriate for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of how American cities have developed.

For additional information and classroom resources please visit The American Urban Reader companion website at www.routledge.com/textbooks/9780415803984.

Table of Contents



List of Figures. Tables, and Illustrations

Foreword by John Bodnar



Part One: Definitions and Perspectives

Editors’ Introduction to Part One


1. Examining America’s Urban Landscape: From Social

Reform to Social History (2010)

Steven H. Corey and Lisa Krissoff Boehm

2. The City in American Civilization (1949)

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr.

3. Urbanism and Suburbanism as Ways of Life:

A Reevaluation of Definitions (1962, 1991)

Herbert J. Gans

4. Beyond Blade Runner (1998)

Mike Davis

5. Crossing the City Line (1999)

Robert A. Orsi


1.1 The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring

Population of New York (1845)

John H. Griscom

1.2 Advice to Strangers (1876)

Robert Macoy

1.4 The Use of Sidewalks: Assimilating Children (1961)

Jane Jacobs


Part Two: Urban Roots: Colonial Settlement and Westward Expansion

Editors’ Introduction to Part Two


1. Boston and New York in the Eighteenth Century (1981)

Pauline Maier

2. Urban Life in Western America, 1790-1830 (1958)

Richard C. Wade

3. Pearls on the Coast and Lights in the Forest (1982)

David R. Goldfield


2.1 A Model of Christian Charity (1630)

John Winthrop

2.2 Philadelphia in 1697

Benjamin Bullivant

2.3 Envisioning Great American Indian Cities (1813)

Henry Marie Brackenridge


Part Three: The New City: Industry and Immigrants, 1820s-1920s

Editors’ Introduction to Part Three


1. From Milling to Manufacturing:

From Villages to Mill Towns (2001)

John T. Cumbler

2. Women in the Neighborhoods (1986)

Christine Stansell

3. Old and New Immigrants in Greater New York City,

1880 to World War I (1995)

Frederick M. Binder and David M. Reimers

4. Ethnic Islands: The Emergence of

Urban Chinese America (1989)

Ronald T. Takaki

5. The Pullman Strike and Making Sense of an Age (1995)

Carl Smith


3.1 Vesey Slave Revolt, Charleston, South Carolina (1822)

3.2. Tredegar and Armory Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia (1847)

3.3 Riots, Louisville, Kentucky (1855)

3.4 Debates on Chinese Immigration (1876)

3.5 The Mixed Crowd (1890)

Jacob Riis

3.6. Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, New York City (1911)


Part Four City Life From the Bottom Up, 1860s-1940s

Editors’ Introduction to Part Four


1. The "Guns" of Gotham (2006)

Timothy Gilfoyle

2. The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth Century America (2007)

Wendy Gamber

3. Urban Culture and the Policing of the

"City of Bachelors" (1994)

George Chauncey


4.1 The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses (1857)

Thomas Butler Gunn

4.2 Sister Carrie (1900)

Theodore Dreiser

4. 3 Strange Brother (1931)

Blair Niles


Part Five: Managing the Metropolis

Editors’ Introduction to Part Five


1. The "Spoils of the Park" (1992)

Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar

2. New Deal City (1989)

Thomas Kessner

3. Messiah Mayors and the Gospel of Urban Hype (1990)

Jon C. Teaford

4. The Katrina Conspiracies:

The Problem of Trust in Rebuilding an American City (2009)

Arnold Hirsch and A. Lee Levert


5.1 On the Social Uses of Central Park (1864)

Frederic B. Perkins

5.2 William Tweed’s Confession (1878).

5.3 Philadelphia: Corrupted and Contented (1903)

Lincoln Steffens

5.4 Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago (1913)

Walter D. Moody

5. 5 Hull-House, A Social Settlement (1894)

Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr

5.6 Growing up with a City (1926)

Louise de Koven Bowen

5.7 On the Way Up: Charlotte and Kansas City (1976)

5.8 President Arrives in Alabama,

Briefed on Hurricane Katrina (2005)


Part Six: The Urban Environment

Editors’ Introduction to Part Six


1. The Metabolism of the Industrial City:

The Case of Pittsburgh (2002)

Joel Tarr

2. Houston: The Energy Metropolis (2007)

Martin Melosi and Joseph Pratt

3. The Emergence of Silicon Valley:

High-Tech Development and Ecocide, 1950-2001 (2002)

David Naguib Pellow and Lisa Sun-Hee Park


6.1 Special Message to the Congress on Conservation and

Restoration of Natural Beauty (1965)

President Lyndon B. Johnson

6.2 Toxic Waste and Race in the United States (1987)

United Church of Christ, 1987.


Part Seven: Transportation & Physical Mobility

Editors' Introduction to Part Seven


1. From Walking City to the Implementation of the

Street Railways (1962)

Sam Bass Warner, Jr.

2. The Subway and the City (1993)

Clifton Hood

3. Wishful Thinking: Downtown and the

Automobile Revolution (2001)

Robert Fogelson


7.1 National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956)

7.2 "$14.6 Billion Later, Boston’s Big Dig Wraps Up,"

Christian Science Monitor (2003)

Seth Stern


Part Eight: Urban Migrations and Social Mobility

Editors’ Introduction to Part Eight


1. The Second Ghetto and the Dynamics of

Neighborhood (1983, 1998)

Arnold Hirsch

2. Making a Way out of No Way: African American

Women and the Second Great Migration (2009)

Lisa Krissoff Boehm

3. The Great White Migration, 1945-1960 (2000)

Chad Berry

4. Citizenship and Civil Rights, 1964-1974 (2009)

Melanie Shell-Weiss


8.1 Tulsa Race Riots, 1921

8.2 Ku Klux Klan Initiation, Worcester, Massachusetts (1924)

8.3 Zoot Suit Riots (1943)

8.4 The Dollmaker (1954)

Harriette Arnow

8.5 Hunger of Memory (1982)

Richard Rodriguez


Part Nine: Race and the Post-War Metropolis

Editors’ Introduction to Part Nine


1. Class, Status and Residence:

The Changing Geography of Black Detroit (1996)

Thomas J. Sugrue

2. White Noose (2003)

Robert Self

3. The Beginning of the End of the Modern Ghetto (2000)

Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh


9.1 Housing Act of 1949

9.2 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)

Sloan Wilson

9.3 Watts Riots, 1965

9.4 Urban Indians (1964-1969)

9.5 Oakland Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Ten Point Plan

Oakland Black Panthers (1966)

9.6 All Souls (1999)

Michael Patrick MacDonald

9.7 Address to the Nation on the Civil Disturbances in Los

Angeles, California (1992)

9. 8 Hispanic Communities and Urban Public Schools (2009)

Arne Duncan


Part Ten: Exurbia and Postindustrial Cities

Editors’ Introduction to Part Ten


1. Commerce: Reconfiguring Community Marketplaces (2003)

Lizabeth Cohen

2. Inventing Las Vegas (2003)

Hal Rothman

3. Polo Ponies and Penalty Kicks (2005)

Corey Dolgon


10.1 Garden Cities of To-Morrow (1902)

Ebenezer Howard

10.2 Looking Backward (1887)

Edward Bellamy

10.3 Charter of the New Urbanism (1996)

Congress for the New Urbanism

10.4 "American Murder Mystery," The Atlantic (2008)

Hanna Rosin

10.5 Reflecting Absence (2003)



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Steven Hunt Corey is Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Studies at Worcester State University, Worcester, MA.

Lisa Krissoff Boehm is Professor of Urban Studies and Director of the Honors Program at Worcester State University in Worcester, MA.  She is the author of Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago, 1871-1968 (Routledge) and Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration.



'The volume serves as a very valuable introduction to the history of scholarship and research related to urban life in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Students and scholars of urban history, urban studies, and urban planning, all levels.' 

“With a rich mix of superb scholarship and diverse primary sources, The American Urban Reader questions key concepts of the American City and enables readers to make new connections among historical actors, events, technologies and theories.”
— David Smiley, Assistant Professor, Architecture and Urban Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University

The American Urban Reader has it all--classic essays and cutting-edge scholarship combined with key primary documents that explore 400 years of American urban life, from John Winthrop’s ‘City on a Hill’ to post-Katrina New Orleans. Thoughtfully organized and transdisciplinary in its scope, this terrific volume is essential reading for students, teachers, and anyone interested in learning more about metropolitan America.”
— Margaret O’Mara, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Washington

The American Urban Reader will certainly be timely in the era of Barack Obama. The urban vote was decisive in his amazing election.”
— Ronald Takaki, author of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

“The editors have done a terrific job of collecting seminal primary, secondary, and theoretical essays on the history, the social life, and the form of the city from the colonial period to the postmodern metropolis. The reader will be useful for students of planning, urban studies, and history—indeed for any student interested in understanding the evolution of the metropolitan landscape.” 
— Eric Schneider, Urban Studies and History, University of Pennsylvania

Support Material

Companion Website

Please visit our companion website for additional support materials.